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Guide to designing a home office that works

Steelcase 360

The work-from-home honeymoon started to go stale for most of us at about five weeks of doing it full-time. Before the crisis only 5% of us typically worked from home most of the time, and 71% of us worked at home on occasion — less than two days a month according to a recent Steelcase study. When we found ourselves suddenly there all-day, every day, we just weren’t prepared for what lay ahead.

“People faced a lot of challenges that impacted both their engagement and productivity,” says Caroline Kelly, Steelcase WorkSpace Future manager. A global Steelcase study found that people who have access to the right furniture and work tools, are significantly more engaged, more productive and feel they have the resources they need to do their work.

In search of comfort
The data confirms most workers do not have an ideal home setup. 46% of individual contributors work primarily or almost always at a desk, while people who live in smaller homes are even less likely to work at a desk. Less than a third (30%) reported they would describe their workspace as comfortable. People with an ergonomic chair were more likely to report they have a comfortable workspace, yet only 24% of individual contributors reported having one. Even fewer (29%) have a secondary monitor, which is important for the prevention of neck and eye strain.

“The sudden nature of the pandemic forced people to make do with what they had — a dining table, the couch, even their bed,” says Kelly. “But now that many people will continue to work from home in some capacity in the future, it’s important to provide them with ergonomic seating and effective work tools to be comfortable and productive and help avoid injury from poor posture, repetitive movements, eye strain, etc.”

Tips for creating work-from-home spaces
For most organizations, our homes will become part of an expanded ecosystem of places where people will continue to work some of the time. While everyone faces their own set of challenges and home sizes can vary drastically, providing ergonomic support and maximizing space — even small ones — help create workspaces at home that are more comfortable, enhance productivity and boost wellbeing.

Make sure you find the best place to work. Consider background noise, visual distractions, and the level of privacy you need to focus. Are you able to control lighting and temperature so you can work comfortably? Can you keep confidential information out of sight? Look for a place that has access to natural light and greenery – it will make you feel better.

Sit (or stand) properly at your desk, which should be elbow height in a seated posture. Choose a desk or worksurface that can accommodate your laptop, keyboard, mouse, phone, etc. Consider a height-adjustable desk so you can change posture: sit, stand, and move. Add an Active Lift Riser to a stationary desk or worksurface to give you the option to change postures from sitting to standing. Clear enough space for your knees so you can slide your chair close to your work.

Choose a good ergonomic chair, that flexes with you to help you change postures while you sit. The backrest of the chair should fit the natural contour of your back to maintain healthy alignment as you sit. As you recline, a chair’s seat and backrest should move as you do – opening up your hip angle and bringing you closer to a healthy sitting posture. Provide comfort where you need it most. Contoured foam and a flexible edge provide pressure-free comfort for sit bones, glutes and thighs. The arms of your chair should stay parallel to the floor while you recline – keeping your arms straight on your desk and your eyes level with your screen.

Add computer support tools to improve ergonomics and create a healthier, more productive workspace. A monitor arm puts screens in the right position in any posture, reducing eye and muscle strain, and increasing user comfort. Additionally, a keyboard platform keeps your external keyboard and mouse on the same horizontal surface and appropriate height for correct positioning, while a footrest lets you stand or sit more comfortably while working and helps maintain good posture. Mobile laptop supports allow you to position a laptop at a height that’s both ergonomically correct and comfortable.

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